Losing our culture?

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A SOCIETY’S culture is defined by the experiences of its people. It includes their language, values, system of Government, history, foods, clothing, people, education, buildings, infrastructures, habits, artefacts, entertainment, religion, sports, the use of the environment, and so forth.

As society evolves so would its culture. At the same time it ought to be noted that the evolution of a culture is different from abandonment or adaptation of another’s culture.

Being discerning in identifying evolving indigenous culture as against abandonment or adaptation of another is an issue facing the society. Such has reached crisis stage and deserving of judicious intervention, given the implications for identity, self-worth, growth and development of the people and the nation.

A people’s culture gives and reinforces their identity. To lose the sense of identity, in whatever measure, whittles away at self-worth. When self-worth is brought into question it not only undermines self-esteem but influences how others would treat with you and the desire to be self-propelling and defend what’s yours.

To understand the level of loss, just pay cursory attention to the climatic apparel parade as fashion statement and indication of ‘status’, along with the hosting of spring, summer and other events, dissimilar to our environment and way of life.

Mimicking has its place but it does not help when reduced to the ridiculous.

Understandably Guyanese, not unlike citizens of every country, desire to live in a society where government works effectively and efficiently, growth and development are widespread, crime is minimised, and people are treated with respect by their leaders and fellow man.

Such desire often drives Guyanese to be vocal participants on social media to events happening in other countries.

The slide into intimate involvement may be the resultant effect of an impression that other societies are better off or superior in their systems. Though there is no harm with such admiration, recognition that such standard came through a process of evolution that required the people’s involvement, should similar efforts be mimicked here, Guyana can also evolve to the admired stage.

In our education process where children are developing their cognitive skills and interpretation of the environment through programmes such as Dora, the Explorer, the acculturation to another environment from an early age is preparing our future to cultivate dissimilar identity and ready market for export.

Exporting our human capital by preparing their minds for such from infancy is ensuring the society never creates roots of belongingness and identity necessary for its growth and development.

Nothing in principle is wrong with the Dora’s programmes, if it could be understood that the creation of such characters forms part of the United States acknowledgement of the necessity for promoting its diversity in building harmony and peaceful co-existence among its people. Where the dark-skinned Hispanic Dora was created to help U.S develop positive outlook for diversity, the West Indians Readers exemplify our diversity and have been created along similar values. These readers could create similar mega marketing and television programmes like Dora.

Accepting evolution of culture would see efforts to make events and teachings adaptable to 21st century realities. But doing this requires concerted national approach that would inform policies where support will be provided in ensuring the retention of identity and by extension the citizens’ self-worth, driven by recognition that the failure to do so could result in the under-development of the society.

People protect or develop what belong to them and if they are not thought to appreciate what belong to them they would not know what to defend, protect or develop.

When mimicking reaches the stage where identity is suppressed, and the desire to be another – because only through such undertaking self-worth can be attained, such thinking not only threatens indigenous development, but the very reason for the existence of the independent state.

What is even more troubling is that such practices are being executed without thought, suggesting a zombie or trance-like state in going about daily activities of living.

The Caribbean history witnessed a plethora of intellectual thinking, shaping the independent movement and immediate post-independent society, which saw the forging of an indigenous identity.
Development of national symbols (flag, coat of arms, etc), alongside indigenous education, government, music, artefacts, economy, and literary genre were the foundations laid to be developed on. These fertile foundations were not created to be overtaken by the proverbial weeds of cultural imperialism, jeopardising the sacrifice of our forebears and the future of the society.